What led Singapore’s Oaxis on the E Ink path?
MK Kuan, Director, Oaxis, talks to e27 about the inspiration behind battery-saving E Ink technology case and the future aheadBy Jonathan Toyad 29 Jul, 2014
A couple of days ago, e27 wrote about the crowdfunded InkCase Plus casing that surpassed its US$100,000 goal in just three hours. A quick recap: The InkCase Plus is an Android phone case that lets its users read and retrieve phone info without turning it on, saving battery life in the process. Judging from how most core phone users always keep referring back to their phones, it can alter their battery-wasting lifestyle for the better.
What exactly fascinated the company about mobile phone peripherals after being in the OEM line since 2004?
According to MK Kuan, Director, Oaxis, it’s the common tactic of sticking to what you know best. “From our past OEM experiences, we became knowledgeable in E Ink products. The idea for this emerged when we came across a colleague who constantly changed his phone background so that he could keep the latest picture of his newborn,” he explained. His enormous battery consumption in the process made Kuan think of a solution. After a lot of brainstorming, the company’s passion for ‘techy stuff’ (his words) made it all possible.
The reason the company is based in Singapore is due to government support. The company has a branch in Shenzhen since its supply chain partners for its peripheral parts are all based in China. “We moved to Shenzhen to render close local support to the production line in order to provide quick time to market and set competitive costs for our customers,” Kuan explained.
Setting up shop in Singapore wasn’t a bed of roses though. The challenges Oaxis faced was mostly on branding and setting itself apart from other mobile accessory-making companies based in the city-state. “While we have a good sense for design and innovation, we are new to the branding world,” said Kuan. “Our main challenge was to spend our limited budget wisely and efficiently to meet branding goals.” He also said that lack of marketing talent was also a crux in spreading the word of the InkCase brand.
While Kuan admits that there is no direct competition for Oaxis’ pride and joy, the indirect ones include reading devices like Kindle and standalone bike computers like REI. He feels that all these do not meet all the requirements in being an efficient single device, going so far as to proclaim that the InkCase will be the future of all E Ink devices. “(It’s the same principle of) the smartphone back then when it integrated functions of an MP3 player, a GPS navigator, and so forth. The era of the second screen has just begun; it’s already been heralded at Google’s IO 2014 recently.”
But will it trend?
The InkCase Plus isn’t really developer-friendly, due to the company not using a proprietary SDK. It doesn’t matter to Oaxis, said Kuan, as he claims that the SDK and API are able to support the functions the developers need to integrate to the existing Android app. “Our initial failure could be due to marketing. We already have developers from Kickstarter to develop apps; with some of them even putting this on their blogs and forums,” he added.
Although tech outlets like Engadget claim that the first InkCase didn’t exactly set the world ablaze, Kuan thinks differently. According to him, the first generation InkCase was relevant in the tech market despite Oaxis’ lack of marketing expertise. “We are new to branding and InkCase was our first product. But we learned a lot as the years went by; we gathered marketing feedback all aiming towards improving our InkCase products.”
What’s next for the company. “Delivery!” said Kuan with enthusiasm as he hopes the company sends out its InkCase Plus on time. “This is our first Kickstarter project and we are still in the learning process, so any kind of support and advice will be welcome.” With US$191,219 on its Kickstarter page at this point in time, at least it can cross ‘funding issues’ off its list.